The housing market is caught between several tailwinds and headwinds, which could create a great deal of turbulence in the months ahead.
One of the tailwinds is a strong labor market, with the economy creating close to half a million jobs every month and unemployment hovering below a historically low rate of 4%. Employment status is among the first things banks consider when reviewing applications for a mortgage, a critical step in buying a home.
Another tailwind is the low inventory levels, as a tight supply of homes hasn’t kept up with robust demand.
Both headwinds have helped housing prices soar, rising at an annual rate of nearly 20% in some regions.
The problem is these tailwinds are beginning to collide with several headwinds like the rising mortgage rates. For instance, the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate has climbed to 5.75% from 3.25% a year ago, the highest seen since 2008. Thanks to soaring inflation, pushing long-term interest rates higher across the board.
Rising mortgage rates diminish home affordability, which has already been a problem due to soaring home prices.
Then there’s the falling stock market, which destroys wealth, destructing demand for high-end homes.
And there’s the slowing economy, which will eventually slow down job growth, push unemployment higher and turn a tailwind into a headwind.
In short, the housing market is at a critical point, caught between tailwinds and headwinds, which are expected to cause significant turbulence in the months ahead.
Most of the housing market experts who spoke with International Business Times see a soft landing.
“The best way to describe the housing market is that it is coming back to Earth,” said Matt O’Hara, head of portfolio management and research at Unison Investment Management.
“This is not a crash landing; we are returning to a more manageable supply and demand situation. During the pandemic, the market reached a fever pitch because more and more people wanted to move – whether it was to have more space, to work remotely, to pay less than they previously were, or any other factors. Now, as the world opens up, we’re starting to see those factors settle in.”
John Walkup, the co-founder of the real estate analytics firm UrbanDigs, agrees.
“The housing market is coming down from white-hot post-pandemic levels essentially fueled by low rates and pent-up demand,” Walkup said. “This ‘sugar rush’ decimated inventory and drove prices higher. As demand falls from record levels, expect prices to moderate. On a relative level, this shift will ‘feel’ harsh, like a car going from 120 mph down to 60 mph, but, viewed in historical context, the housing markets will likely revert to normal, or near-normal levels.”
Polina Ryshakov, chief economist at housing market company Sundae, sees the housing market stabilizing from an unhealthy run-up, not a correction.
“The market has been unhealthy for two years, and we are still working on nearly no supply with outstanding demand. We have been underbuilding homes for more than a decade,” she said. “Demand remains high, with supply needing to catch up. What we’re seeing is a healthy leveling out of the two.”
Still, a couple of heretic voices raise concerns about something more serious than “cooling off or “stabilization.
Yatin Karnik, the founder of mortgage estimating company Confer, is concerned about home affordability for first-time buyers. “Housing affordability continues to be a major challenge, Karnik says.
“We have seen sustained price appreciation and now adding salt to injury with rising mortgage rates, which is a double whammy for borrowers … it impacts first-time home borrowers which is a third of the purchase market.”
Jarred Kessler, founder of real estate company EasyKnock, pointing out that the balance between owning and renting, has tipped in favor of renting.
“Unfortunately, rising home prices are a major problem for the average American, who is affected by the trapped equity crisis the most,” Kessler said.
“On average, it now costs $839 per month more to own than rent. Monthly expenses continue to go up, causing more mortgage rejections due to debt-to-income ratio requirements not being met, and American homeowners desperately need flexibility in their finances.”